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Rostra rating: 3.5
Not to be confused with the faux boozer on Cunard’s flagship, Newport’s Golden Lion is definitely a gastropub. The service is professional, efficient, and quite friendly given the large amount of covers that this sprawling pub with rooms turns on any given evening in the summer. Our meal at The Golden Lion was one of the best pub experiences of the entire MagoGuide 2016 Grand Tour.
Sprats: smoked baby herring that is pan fried in butter and served with a lemon aioli dipping sauce and a mini-salad. The bones and heads look like they might be a problem, but they are imminently crunchable, precious–perhaps due to the dual stage cooking process in hot smoke followed by frying. The aioli actually elevates the dish, while the salad of pea tendrils, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and baby lettuce constitutes a refreshing culinary counter-point. I could have eaten a lot more of those critters. The only off note was two huge slices of really mediocre brown bread (again).
Mago tip: Save the little salad for last and then dump it into the empty serving skillet that contains a lot of butta from cooking the sprats. It makes an incredible dressing.
Veggie spring rolls: were a solid B–competently fried, but the wrappers were a bit too thick and the chili dipping sauce a little too sweet.
Pork belly braised in cider: Waaaay good. The rolled belly was braised soft and unctuous and then crisped in the oven to bring out the crackling. The cider made for a sweeter braise, which was accentuated by the apple, cinnamon, and sultana compote that melded perfectly with the rich pig candy mouth feel. Wretched excess rounded out the dish by way of roast black pudding, crunchy outside and smooth inside due to virtually no filler. The cinnamon in the compote also worked nicely with the black pudding.
Chicken pie: Mine Kitty!! All Mine!! I maybe got two small bites. Definitely not Marie Calendar’s take on this classic. The puff pastry “top” was the real thang while the chicken, mushroom, and leek filling was rich, saucy, and spiked with a nice hit of heat from freshly ground white pepper.
Fries: correctly identified on the menu as such, but ordered universally by the locals as chips, were the best we had in either the UK or Ireland.
Mago tip: Portions were so large that even the thought of dessert was painful. Try splitting a main or sharing three starters so that you do actually have room for what promised to be excellent traditional afters such as sticky toffee pudding and the crumble of the day.
And then there was the beer. The real ale on tap was the best we drank during our stay in Wales. The star of the show, however, was Betty Stogs from Cornwall (go figure).